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Why chances of 49ers keeping Brandon Aiyuk have increased in recent weeks

Mar 7, 2024 at 8:45 AM

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Few expected the NFL salary cap to increase by an unprecedented $30.6 million over last year's mark. Some NFL teams were hoping it might approach $250 million, but they were still not expecting it to reach such heights. So, the league announcing that the 2024 salary cap was being set at $255.4 million came as a pleasant surprise.

A lack of a sufficient increase meant competitive teams that were in danger of surpassing the cap limit, such as the San Francisco 49ers, might have had to sacrifice some cohesion from last season to the next. However, that may no longer be the issue with a higher salary cap in place.

While the 49ers remain close to the cap limit, they now have better options to create some breathing room. This will likely come in the form of contract restructures, spreading out salary over future seasons to add some surplus this year. Of course, teams need to be strategic with this approach to ensure they avoid salary cap trouble down the road.

San Francisco has been planning for two significant action items—Brandon Aiyuk's contract extension this offseason and Brock Purdy's next offseason. The salary cap increase makes the Aiyuk situation this year more flexible.

"The San Francisco 49ers have a better chance of being able to keep their Super Bowl team together," ESPN's Dan Graziano explained while discussing the ramifications of the salary cap increase. "San Francisco is still going to need to restructure a contract or two -- maybe offensive tackle Trent Williams or edge rusher Arik Armstead -- to get under the cap, but carrying receiver Brandon Aiyuk on his $14.124 million fifth-year option seems more palatable now than it did a couple of weeks ago."

Entering the offseason, many wondered if the 49ers might have to trade Aiyuk to prevent an unfavorable salary cap situation in the future. Graziano certainly saw that as a possibility, suggesting last month that the chances of Aiyuk ending up in another uniform were much higher than zero.

Graziano added, "A lower cap might have forced the Niners to consider trading Aiyuk if they couldn't get him extended, but the higher number buys some time to figure it out."

Last week, general manager John Lynch was asked about the increased salary cap and how it impacts the Aiyuk negotiations.

"Well, I think that was a welcome sight that the cap was going up," Lynch responded at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. "I think the thing you have to understand, it went up for everyone, so it's not unique to our team. But we have some challenges. We have a lot of good players, a lot of good players who we've rewarded.

"Brandon's one that we think incredibly highly of, one of my favorite guys around our building, the way he approaches the game. He's a competitor. He's a warrior. ... And I think we've got a nice track record of extending the players that are important to us, and Brandon's a guy we want to keep around for a long time."
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